"By the end of the record, I want you to feel like you’re not alone. I want my music to be your best friend."
Since forming in Los Angeles in 2013, party-starting touring stalwarts Andy Frasco & The U.N. have been on the road so much, they might as well have broken white lines running down their faces. The five-piece mix blues, retro funk and soul and have just released their third album ‘Change Of Pace’. NME caught up with the band’s secretary general Andy to talk onstage Bar Mitzvah’s, embracing internet trolls, and being like Justin Bieber in China.
Hey Andy! What have you been up to today?
“I just interviewed the hardcore band Every Time I Die for my World Saving Podcast. ‘Cos I’m doing 250 shows a year and I’ve been on the road for the last 13 years of my life, so I interview bands like Portugal. The Man about living on the road.”
Do you have a bucket-list of dream interviewees for it?
“Oh man, Keith Richards would be great! The Stones are a huge influence. I wanted to bring that live chaos but still write great songs. I want everyone to live in the moment and try to get everyone out of their cell phones for a few hours.”
You’re known for your raucous gigs. What have been some of the craziest ones?
“We did Rock am Ring in Nuremberg, which is where Hitler did his speeches. Me being Jewish, I wanted to throw a Bar Mitzvah on that stage. So I had 10,000 Germans raise me up in a chair and we did ‘Hava Nagila’. Right now, Americans don’t have a great rep about supporting everybody and they’re being very selfish, so I want to show people there’s other Americans out there who are just trying to build happiness and trying to get people together.”
What was inspiring your album ‘Change Of Pace’?
“Basically, I was living on the road and taking a bunch of drugs – binging cocaine and having a bunch of one-night stands. I was becoming hollow and lost the reasons why I fell in love with the music industry and loving the road. So I had to clean up my act – I stopped taking coke and having sex with everybody. (Laughs) I dialled it back and said: this is about the music. That’s why I named it ‘Change Of Pace’ – I stopped thinking about the live show as much and I wanted to start thinking about the songs and how I’m feeling as an artist and person. I think mental health is really important to talk about, and I wanted to address that in my lyrics. We’re all fighting the social media addiction that’s making us have this fear of missing out which gives us anxiety and we can’t live in the moment – we’re so worried about what other people are doing.”
Was there a moment that made you take stock of your life?
“Yeah, I was on a 22-day bender. I woke up one day from a one-night stand and I looked at my phone and it looked like I had 17 girlfriends. I thought: what the fuck am I doing? I’m just copying and pasting text messages to people and not building real relationships. I was partying all night then yelling at the band in the morning because I was hungover. I met up with Dave Schools [the bassist] from Widespread Panic who said: ‘Do you want to write meaningful songs or do you wanna be the party guy?’. He slapped me into shape and got me kind of sober – I still drink a lot, smoke weed and take mushrooms, but I don’t do speed or mollys anymore. I don’t want to be remembered as partying asshole – I just want people to live in the moment and feel good when they’re at my shows.”
“I mean, I can remember waking up in a parking lot in New Orleans once naked in just Frosty The Snowman boxers because I threw up in the van and got kicked out of it. When I woke up at 12 noon, all the whole parking lot was full – besides my one spot (Laughs). People were stepping over me. By that point, I was kind of like: ‘Just another day in the office!’”.
On the track ‘Don’t Let The Haters Get You Down’, you take aim at internet trolls…
“It’s funny, people can write a million good things about you, but then that one who doesn’t write something nice, you think about that forever. I’ve had a troll that would go on every chat and messaging board talking about how I’m a one-trick pony, and he tried to throw shit at me onstage and make me look like an idiot. I’m not really an angry guy, so I invited him onstage and gave him a hug! I told him: ‘I don’t know what you’re so angry about – I don’t know if I hooked up with your ex-girlfriend or something – but I’m sorry. (Laughs) And if you need some closure, let’s talk about it’. I know my live antics aren’t for everyone, but if I can make the majority who come to my shows feel ‘Life’s going to be okay’, I’m doing my job.”
There’s a trend at the moment for bands to talk about – and raise awareness of – mental health…
“Totally. I think in the last two years, it’s become more public. You know, it’s the Instagram generation – where you only post stuff that’s good. We’ve got to learn that it’s okay to have bad feelings too, we’re not robots. And we’re afraid to express how we really feel, which is why it’s really important for people to talk about mental health and confront their feelings. For me to make this record where I’ve opened up about vulnerabilities and my insecurities really cleansed me. On the song ‘Somedays’, I was in this bad situation where I’d bought a house in the middle of America – where I’m the only Jew in Kansas! (Laughs) All so I could get closer to a girl that was never going to give me the time of day at all. It was like squeezing a triangle into a circle hole. So ‘Somedays’ is about how you fight for something, but some days, you’re going to have shitty days. Especially coming from the party guy who pitches happiness – to hear that other side of me, I think my fans relate with that. But it’s hard for me to be vulnerable.”
You hail from LA. Were you from a musical background?
“No. My parents are real estate brokers. My sister is a doctor. I used to DJ Bar Mitzvah when I was 13. I used to be a hype man. I loved hustling and worked at Drive-Thru Records booking some bands. I was like 13 – but the same height I am now. (Laughs). I had an affair with my teacher when I was 18 and a senior in high school! It was like I grew up too quickly and my mom let me go on tour with a band when I was 16. From the moment I drove to the first gig, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t have any musical talent – all I could do was help with mech and book shows. Then when I was 18, I quit college and used the $6,000 I had left of my Bar Mitzvah money to buy a van, and cold called venues and Craiglisted musicians until I learned an instrument on the road. Because all I wanted to do was live on the road. Music was my outlet to travel.”
Wait, rewind, you had an affair with your teacher?!
“Oh yeah, it was a scandal! It was serious! Growing up in LA, you get the Maury and Jerry Springer casting directors, and you’re like bait in the water. But I was a wild kid. My mom caught me having a threesome in my Pathfinder in a fast food restaurant parking lot. (Laughs) I think I was born to be a musician without knowing. I grew up in this suburban life, near Calabasas where Kanye West lives. My parents were well-off, but I knew I didn’t want that to be my life. I couldn’t be the guy who was keeping up with the Joneses.”
What was being at Drive-Thru Records like?
“It was badass! I’m 13 and folding T-shirts for merch. I wasn’t getting paid – they were just giving me free merch. Richard and Stefanie Reines, the owners, are the reason I know anything about this industry. I wanted to be Richard. I wanted to be an entertainer and they had all the energetic bands like New Found Glory, and he polished me into the musician I was going to grow into without me even knowing I was going to be a musician. It’s only being 31 now that I realise how much I learned from just being in that office and hearing demos and how he talked to bands about choruses and stuff.”
So how would you describe your music?
“I call it organised chaos. It’s feelgood soul. I want your soul to smile. I want your soul to cry. And by the end of the record, I want you to feel like you’re not alone. I want my music to be your best friend.”
What do you have coming up?
“Man, I’m bustin’ ‘til next year! We’re going to Europe, Mexico, China. We’ve played China every New Year’s Eve for the past six years and, like, 10,000 people show up and they know all my songs! I feel like Justin Bieber over there! They try to marry me off to their daughters! I feel like Bill Murray in Lost In Translation (Laughs). Like, ‘Mr Frasco, you’re going to open for David Beckham’. I’m like ‘David Beckham? What the fuck is going on?’. They love him in Macau, and I got to do one New Year’s Eve where they’re opening a new hotel and Beckham was there and he watched a little bit of my show – and I freaked out because he’s god for sports people. And he’s so pretty still! That’s another reason for cutting down on drugs – I wanna look like that! (Laughs)”
‘Change of Pace’ is out now.